By Shemuel Fanfair
Months after senior staff members of the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) were sent on leave to facilitate a probe of alleged links to an embattled gold dealer, investigators are expected to conclude their work in the coming days and seek legal advice on the way forward.
This was indicated by Head of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Sydney James who hinted on Monday that the next step of the case involving the GGB staffers could soon be determined, as SOCU is wrapping up investigations into the matter.
“Investigations [are] being finalised, and should be submitted shortly to either the [Director of Public Prosecutions] DPP or Police Legal Advisor,” James disclosed.
Guyana Gold Board General Manager Lisaveta Ramotar, Deputy General Manager Andrea Seelochan and Legal Officer Suzanne Bullen were all sent on administrative leave in April following reports of that entity’s staffers being linked to licensed gold dealer, Saddiqi Mohamed Rasul, who was charged for the $956 million fraud at the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI).
Shortly after Rasul was granted $3 million bail on the fraud charges in April, reports surfaced that he sold gold to the Gold Board regularly.
There were also reports that he allegedly purchased yellow metal above the London Fix; deposited and withdrew millions of dollars from his company’s bank account, and was allowed to pay only the five per cent royalty and not the two per cent tax.
In light of these allegations, the Natural Resources Ministry has since called in the Police Force to prove the “alleged linkages with personnel at the Guyana Gold Board.” SOCU has been leading that probe but its Head was tight-lipped when reporters asked what investigators were so far able to unearth.
“I can’t say what are some of the findings of that probe; I guess when we get the advice from the Police legal advisor, I might be able to elaborate further… we should be completing the file shortly and send it over to the legal advisor,” the SOCU Head affirmed.
SSS Minerals Trading Inc owner Rasul had deposited cheques totalling $290 million, $96 million, $138 million, $89 million, $298 million and $45 million, into his GBTI bank account even though the cheques were from Citizens’ Bank. The then Manager at GBTI’s Bartica office, Tanzy Powell went ahead and effected payment without the cheques being cleared. She was subsequently dismissed.
Meanwhile, Rasul is believed to have conned several gold dealers of hundreds of millions of dollars and he presently has several lawsuits from clients who claimed that he had taken their money to purchase gold, but instead fraudulently converted it to his own use.
Lisaveta, the daughter of former President Donald Ramotar, was appointed General Manager at the GGB in December 2014 and she, earlier this year, proclaimed her innocence of any wrongdoing, saying that she professionally discharged her duties adding that frontline employees were the ones who interacted with customers and were best to indicate if an activity was suspicious.
Ramotar had further disclosed that the GGB’s Finance Department was directly responsible for making payments to miners.
The General Manager also denied that she had given instructions to GGB’s Legal Officer, Bullen to incorporate Rasul’s gold company. The businessman is out on $3 million court bail while the Gold Board officials remain off the job.